Note: All historic references made in this post are derived from the Arlington County African American Heritage Guide, a project of the black Heritage Museum of Arlington, the Arlington Chamber of Commerce, and the Arlington Convention and Visitors Service.
As you honor black history month this February, take time to discover the historic sites and people that make up Arlington’s rich African American heritage.
Noteworthy Graves to See:
·First African American buried in Arlington Cemetery with a marked grave James Parks
·Co-discoverer of the North Pole Matthew Alexander Henson
·Legendary world heavyweight boxing champion Joe Louis
·Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall
·Army Brigadier General Benjamin O. Davis and son, Lieutenant Benjamin O. Davis Jr.
·General Roscoe Robinson
·Colonel Charles Young
·Air Force General Daniel (Chappie) James
·Slain civil-rights leaders Medgar Evers and Allard Lowenstein
Site: Freedman’s Village
Located in Arlington National Cemetery, sections 8, 47, and 25 along Eisenhower Dr.
The abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia in April 1862 led many former and escaped slaves to Washington DC, seeking shelter and employment. In June 1863, the U.S. Government established Freedman’s Village as a temporary wartime refuge for emancipated and fugitive slaves. The village thrived for 37 years after the Civil War, and helped sow the seeds of Arlington’s African American community.
Person: Selina Gray
Many of George Washington’s family heirlooms would not be around today if it weren’t for his descendant Mary Custis Lee’s personal housemaid Selina Gray. Ms. Gray stopped the Union troops from stealing the prized possessions by urging General Irwin McDowell to send the remaining pieces to the U.S. Patent Office for safekeeping.
Person: Charles R. Drew
The Drew family Home is located at 2505 First Street South
Arlington resident and first African American to receive a doctorate from Columbia University, Dr. Drew created the concepts that now govern the modern day blood bank. He is especially known for his press conference where he explained that there is no racial difference in blood.
Site: Nauck Neighborhood
Bounded by Army-Navy Country Club (north), Shirley Highway (east), Four Mile Run Drive (south) and South Walter Reed Drive (west)
Initially settled in 1844 by free black man Levi Jones, Nauck began its gradual growth into an African American community when former residents of Freedman’s Village began moving into the area after the Civil War.
4845 Lee Highway, Arlington, VA 22207
Organized as a volunteer unit in 1918, this was the county’s first black fire station, and later the first and only with paid black firemen.
Site: Butler-Holmes Neighborhood
Bounded by Arlington Blvd. (north), Ft. Myer (east), 2nd St. (south) and Fillmore St. (west; within today’s Penrose Neighborhood
- Superintendent of Roads William H. Butler
- Alexandria Commissioner of Revenue Henry Louis Holmes
These African American businessmen and local government officials had a lot to do with Arlington’s transition from a farming area to a residential community when they purchased 13 acres of Hunter Plantation and subdivided their parcel into building lots in 1882.
Posted by Melissa O'Connor on February 14, 2012 | Permalink